Every day in the approach to Christmas, we’ll speak to winners from the recent finals of IoD Director of the Year Awards. Today it’s Robin Watson, chief executive of Wood, who won the Large Business category
A chartered mechanical engineer, Watson has three decades of experience in the oil and gas industry. He has worked at Mobil, Petrofac and Wood Group, which in 2017 became a blue-chip multinational valued at £5 billion when he led its acquisition of engineering consultancy Amec Foster Wheeler.
What has been the toughest challenge you’ve had to surmount? “Striking the right balance between the need to be decisive and the recognition that a successful transformation is possible only when you bring people with you on the journey. I am always aware that the onus is on me and my executive team to bring in change at the right pace. A lot of our focus is on engagement and communication, both internally and externally, to ensure that all voices are heard as the company changes.”
What’s the biggest business lesson you have learnt so far? “The future doesn’t just come to you; you need to have a good view of how to deliver today and create the right platform for tomorrow too. With this in mind, I have used scenario analysis extensively for more than 20 years.”
What’s the key to great leadership? “Vision – you have to really read your market. You must have a good idea of where it’s going in the immediate future and also where it’s likely to be in the longer term.”
What’s the best piece of leadership advice you’ve ever had? “It came from my father, who was a big believer in hard work, authenticity and passion. If you keep hold of these three basic components, he said, things will always work out right, both in business and in life.”
Which other leader do you particularly admire? “Sir Alex Ferguson. He was a great leader who knew how to get the best performance out of a team.”